A number of evacuation alerts are in place for Lake Country in the Okanagan region as fears of widespread, historic flooding continue to swamp residents.
Global News reporter John Hua is on the ground, speaking to residents who have been furiously sandbagging to protect their homes, but many left feeling that disaster is imminent.
“A lot of people are saying they have no idea, they’re doing their best but don’t know if they can maintain the situation. Already some people who had flooding just this past weekend have heard from their insurance companies saying unless the water is pouring in through windows and doors, and it’s coming through the groundwater, it’s not covered. They’re hoping maybe an emergency relief fund will help them with this.”
Officials estimate about 3,000 people are affected from the rising water levels.
“The main message right now is flooding is imminent,” says Chief of the Central Okanagan Emergency Centre Todd Cashin.
“This is going to a historic event, and we need to take this seriously and be prepared.”
— John Hua (@JohnHua) May 11, 2017
He says flooding is going to get worse, it’s just a matter of when. Rain started to fall Thursday morning, and Global BC Meteorologist Kristi Gordon says its just a question of how hard the region will get slammed tonight.
“We’re seeing very intense pockets of rain right through the Southern Interior this hour and this pattern is expected to continue for the next three to four hours at least. This band will shift to the east later this evening into the Columbia and Kootenay region but we still have the risk of some rain so we will be tracking this situation closely over the next six hours.”
Kelowna watching the skies
But while the region sits under warnings, there are clear skies in Kelowna, prompting the city’s mayor to warn residents not to get complacent.
Speaking with Steele & Drex, Colin Basran says anticipated severe thunderstorms never materialized this afternoon.
“Now it will depend on what happens tonight, where, again, there’s been a severe thunderstorm warning issued for the area. And we’ll just have to wait and see how that all plays out and take things from there.”
He adds there are more than 600 properties on evacuation alert with more than 500 on evacuation order.
LISTEN: Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran updates Steele & Drex on flooding concerns
In nearby Peachland, it’s a similar story.
Dari Yeo, who owns a bistro next to Okanagan Lake says she isn’t too worried about flood warnings.
Yo says there is an embankment separating her business from the lake, but that a water pump has been brought in just in case.
“I guess it all depends on what the weather brings us. There is concerns about the storm drains overflowing or backing up, and that’s why we’ve brought those pumps in.”
Several Kelowna businesses have told CKNW they aren’t taking any precautions following the warnings.
Between 15 to 25 millimetres are expected for the next 36 hours, hitting areas which have completely saturated grounds.
Cashin says the fact the earth is already swamped is the key problem for residents.
“What’s really important for people to understand is the ground is fully saturated. We’ve been telling people the buckets are full, upper reservoirs are full, the creeks are full, and the ground waters and lakes down at the valley bottom are full.”
Cashin says it’s all up to Mother Nature but expects the worst to come Thursday night or Friday.
“People know that if the live next to a low-lying area, or a creek or a wetland if those folks didn’t see flooding last week, they could see some in the next 12 to 18 hours or beyond. We really need those people to get the necessary preparations for their properties. ”
The city is warning people who think they’ll be caught in affected areas to consider alternative arrangements.
WATCH: Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran sends message to the community
Flooding forced hundreds from their homes last weekend and left two people missing, including Cache Creek Fire Chief Clayton Cassidy.
BC Wildfire services are helping out with thousands of sandbags. Cashin says people in the region should expect it to be worse than last week.
— Lauren Pullen (@Lauren_Global) May 10, 2017
Global News meteorologist Mark Madryga says the southern Interior has seen quite warm weather the past couple of days, accelerating the melting of the mountain snow.
“We’re going to have some heavy showers and thunderstorms roll into the southern Interior, especially Thursday afternoon and Thursday night, that will further enhance the snow melt and definitely some rising rivers and streams in there right through the next couple of days.”
The regional district placed nearly 600 more homes on evacuation alert Wednesday night.
At Nicola Lake, one resident says the community is on high alert watching water levels.
“It’s raining pretty good, the rain has arrived early.”
Residents are rushing to put sandbags in place and doing what they can to secure their docks.
But Steven Patterson says he’s watched water levels rise over the last week.
“There’s going to be some of my neighbours that if this lake comes up much more, then they will get flood damage.”
— Emergency Info BC (@EmergencyInfoBC) May 11, 2017
Patterson built a retaining wall about 4-feet high years ago.
He says water levels are just eight inches below the top.
“If it comes up, it could flood across my lawn to my cabin.”
He says the culvert pipes on the highway are now under water.
With files from Emily Lazatin, Kyle Benning, and Gord MacDonald